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Museum surrenders pieces in Hidden Idol investigation

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One of seven items found in a Honolulu museum believed to have been looted from India. Photo courtesy of ICE.

One of seven items found in a Honolulu museum believed to have been looted from India. Photo courtesy of ICE.

HONOLULU — The Honolulu Museum of Art has handed over seven artifacts likely looted from India to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Wednesday.
ICE officials said the museum didn’t know about the objects’ background when they were acquired between 1991 and 2003.
“Many of the items can be traced to one of India’s richest archeological regions, Chandraketugarh,” ICE officials said in a release on the matter earlier this week.
Authorities allege some of the items are tied to the Operation Hidden Idol investigation former New York-based art dealer, Subhash Kapoor. Kapoor is currently in custody in India awaiting trial for allegedly looting millions of dollars’ worth of rare antiquities, ICE officials said.
Pieces returned by the Honolulu museum include a 2,000-year-old terra cotta rattle.
“In addition to the rattle resembling the Buddhist god of wealth, the objects include figurines, architectural fragments and tiles, which were removed from religious temples and ancient Buddhist sites,” officials said.
In 2013, Homeland Security Investigation agents in New York linked the museum’s terra cotta rattle to the Hidden Idol case, the museum began working with authorities and identified the other six objects, officials said.
The artifacts will be used in the prosecution for the Hidden Idol case, which has already lead to the seizure of more than $100 million worth of allegedly looted objects and three arrest. The items will then likely be returned to India.

Fern breaks fall

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Park search and rescue workers lift a man to safety after he fell 115 feet. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Hawaii National Park, Hawai’i –– Foliage and a park visitor’s intuition may have saved a Micronesian man’s life after he fell an estimated 115 feet down a cliff in a national park in Hawaii.

“Luckily, he landed in a dense thicket of native ‘uluhe fern, which broke his fall,” said John Broward, search and rescue coordinator for Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

According to National Park Service officials, Harry Osachy, 73, of Kurtistown, fell after climbing over a barrier behind Volcano House sometime Monday and spent the night stranded. On Tuesday afternoon, a woman heard his cries for help coming from vegetation along Halema’uma’u Trail, which is directly below the hotel. Although she first thought it was a prank, she notified park staff.

A helicopter lowered Broward into the area, and he found Osachy with shoulder and pelvis injuries and suffering from dehydration, according to park officials. He was taken to Hilo Medical Center.

It is the thirteenth search and rescue mission at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park this year. Last year, park crews responded to a total of 26 incidents.

Roadkill Report: Nenes

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It has been awhile since we had a Road Kill report edition.

In recent weeks, a number of nene (a big duck/goose/loon-type birds) got run over run over in and around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park has been in the middle of a drought, and nenes are attracted the areas around roads because water runoff there does wonders for irrigating the yummy vegetation. So, Park Service officials have been warning motorists to mind the “Nene Crossing” signs. As if cars weren’t enough, the nenes’ numbers have been thinning due to wild predators, but they are apparently safe from the volcanoes. At any rate, the National Park Service release on the matter is below:

Nene Killed by Vehicle

Date: November 5, 2012

Hawaii National Park, Hawai’i —- Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park urges motorists to slow down and watch out for endangered nēnē while driving on Highway 11 and other park roadways.

A female nēnē was killed early Friday morning along Chain of Craters Road, and her mate remains near the site. The young pair was preparing to nest.

As nesting season begins, nēnē, particularly females, are focused on eating. They must build up enough body fat to produce eggs and sustain them through the 30-day incubation period. As a result, females and their watchful mates are out not only during the day, but are also foraging at dusk and dawn and even throughout the night when the moon is bright.

Due to recent drought conditions, the vegetation is particularly dry at many of the favored breeding sites, pushing nēnē to move further afield in search of adequate food. Unfortunately, rain runoff from the pavement, combined with ground disturbance along road edges, often makes for lush grassy strips along roads, enticing birds to feed in dangerous spots. Furthermore, nēnē may be difficult to see along roadsides because their coloring often blends in with the surrounding area.

The park has placed nēnē crossing signs on roads where birds are known to congregate or cross, and where vehicle kills occur most frequently. Motorists are urged to pay attention to the signs and proceed cautiously.

“It’s imperative that drivers use caution throughout all nēnē crossing zones. It is understandable that people get complacent when they do not see nēnē in these areas for a long time; however, the park strongly urges motorists to pay attention to the signs and slow down,” said park wildlife biologist Kathleen Misajon.

Incidents of people feeding nēnē also have contributed to recent vehicle kills, Misajon said. On Oct. 1, a 16-year-old male – a father of three fledglings last season – was killed by a vehicle along Highway 11, one mile outside of the park’s Ka’ū boundary. He was likely drawn to this location by feeding, which continues to be a problem at this site, attracting more nēnē to the roadside and increasing their odds of becoming the next road kill.

“Nēnē have significant threats to contend with, from predation by cats, mongooses and other introduced predators, to loss of habitat made worse by drought conditions. This species is really fighting an uphill battle. We ask the public to help us rebuild nēnē populations by minimizing vehicle-related nēnē deaths,” Misajon said.